Jockeys competing in California won’t be allowed to strike a horse more than six times during a race, and then only in an underhanded position, according to a new rule approved by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB).
Representatives from the Jockeys’ Guild, plus California riders Mike Smith and Aaron Gryder, repeatedly advocated for the board to wait at least one more month before voting on the rule to allow more time for a proposed national whip standards rule to come to fruition.
But in a contentious meeting that stretched nearly seven hours, CHRB chairman Gregory Ferraro, DVM, spearheaded the push to once and for all settle the whip rule based on the rationale that he believes no such national standard is actually forthcoming, and that California should be a leader and not a follower when it comes to reforming how racehorses are treated.
“I don’t believe you’re going to see a national rule,” Ferraro said. “I would like a national rule, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. It’s definitely not going to happen with any speed at all. It could be years. This board has a mandate from the governor to make reforms in racing that contribute to the welfare of the horse. We’ve been talking about this crop rule for two years. I think it’s time to stop procrastinating and pass a rule. We have a good rule. We worked hard on it.
“The rule is not based on what’s best for the situation. It’s based on perception,” Gusman said. “You’re going to end racing in California. It’s just going to happen if you go down this road of trying to regulate perception rather than reality.”
In addition to the above-mentioned restrictions, the newly amended version of CHRB Rule 1688 will also prohibit the use of the riding crop during morning training and after the finish of races. According to the CHRB meeting information packet, the correct uses of the riding crop will now include “showing or waving the crop without touching the horse…and tapping the horse on the shoulder with the crop in the down position.”
The new rule will also establish “a maximum fine of $1,000 and minimum suspension of three days for riding in a manner contrary to the rule.” There will be no penalty if the stewards determine that the use of the riding crop was “necessary for the safety of the horse or rider.”
Terence Meyocks, the president and chief executive officer of the Jockeys’ Guild, noted that work is progressing in other jurisdictions, particularly among a coalition of mid-Atlantic region tracks, to come up with a standardized version of whipping rules that have been crafted with the input of riders in mind. He explained that he would like to see California on board with any proposed rule that might result from those multi-party discussions in the next few weeks.
“The Jockeys’ Guild and riders today need a national rule,” Meyocks said. “I think we’re so much closer to a national rule in the United States, and I think that this is our best chance. It’s the Guild’s request at this time to ask for an extension of no more than four to six weeks to see if we can reach an agreement on the riding crop in the United States.”
But Scott Chaney, the CHRB’s new executive director, told commissioners before the vote that he didn’t buy that line of reasoning. “This idea about a national standard is not a ‘thing.’ It just doesn’t exist,” Chaney said. “I guess maybe we’re talking about some agreement between the Jockeys’ Guild and the safety coalition. But that’s not a national standard. That’s just an idea that a sub-group of the country has. It would require every other state to pass a rule, which just is not going to happen.”
Now that the new whipping rules have been passed, the CHRB must submit the proper paperwork to the state Office of Administrative Law, which will review the technical details, possibly in time for an effective date of Oct. 1.